We’re fortunate in south Louisiana to enjoy several winter-flowering small trees, including redbuds and flowering cherries. And now is a good time to plant them.
The most common redbud species, the Eastern redbud, is the one we primarily plant in Louisiana. They usually start flowering in mid-February and continue through late March.
But don’t confuse redbuds with flowering cherry trees, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings.
Flowering cherry trees generally bloom earlier than redbuds. In some years, the first flowers appear as early as late January.
Flowering cherry trees and redbuds all produce blooms along their branches before the leaves appear, creating an interesting effect in the landscape.
The attractive flowers on cherry trees are a vibrant, deep pink and are produced in great abundance before the leaves emerge.
The Taiwan flowering cherry and the Okame flowering cherry are popular varieties to consider, Owings says.
Flower colors on redbuds vary from light, medium or dark pink to rosy purple, pinkish purple or fuchsia. “But they’re not red,” Owings says. A white-flowering variety, typically called Alba, is becoming more available.
Highly adaptable and easy to maintain, redbuds sometimes are slow to establish but then have a moderate growth rate. It’s important to select a well-drained site with average moisture rather than locations that are overly dry or wet.
Owings recommends planting redbuds in partially sunny to partially shady locations.
“Full sun and full shade are not as good,” he says. “The foliage needs to be protected from western afternoon sun exposure in summer.”
Forest Pansy is a popular redbud variety. It was introduced a number of years ago and has become highly desirable. The unique feature of Forest Pansy is dark reddish-purple foliage, Owings says. Flowers are pinkish lavender, but full sun bleaches out the reddish-purple pigmentation in foliage, so this variety is recommended for partial shade.
Other redbud species and varieties include Mexican redbud with pink flowers; Texas redbud, a botanical variety of the Eastern redbud, and the Oklahoma redbud, which is known for glossy foliage.
A weeping variety of redbud, Traveler, can be found through mail order specialty nurseries.
“Redbuds are an underused native tree in Louisiana,” Owings says. “Consider the addition of this small ornamental to your landscape. January and February would be a great time to plant.”
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.